JUNEAU (AP) -- Gov. Frank Murkowski delivers his first State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature on Thursday where he will outline his plans for the state.
Murkowski, a Republican, takes the reins of state government following eight years of a Democrat administration with far different priorities.
He also left the U.S. Senate after 22 years to manage a state government with one of the highest budget deficits in the nation and yet, cash reserves that are the envy of other states.
Murkowski easily won election on a vow not to raise taxes and to turn around declining oil production and fill the trans-Alaska oil pipeline. Democrats say they now want to see the plan.
''He ran on that platform, he promised that platform and tomorrow he's got to show us how he's going to deliver on that platform,'' said House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz, an Anchorage Democrat.
It is unclear what the governor would include in the speech. Both, Murkowski and chief of staff Jim Clark refused a request for an interview.
''He's going to touch on lots of things important to Alaska and that's all I can say at this point,'' said press spokesman John Manly.
Alaska's budget shortfall in fiscal 2003, which ends June 30, is expected to be $747 million, according to the state Department of Revenue. A report by the National Conference of State Legislatures shows Alaska's deficit -- about 20 percent of its total state general fund -- is the highest in the nation.
Murkowski campaigned on a pledge to close the state's fiscal gap, which is expected to grow to $1 billion by 2005, by promoting more oil and gas production and other resources.
During the campaign, Murkowski weathered criticism that his plans to increase the state's revenues from natural resources was not specific enough. David Dittman, a Republican pollster, said the governor's first State of the State address is an opportunity to answer that criticism.
''This is the time to start putting some flesh on the bones,'' said Dittman, an avid political watcher in Alaska politics.
A Dittman Research poll conducted in early January shows Alaskans are optimistic about the state's prospects and overall are happy with the outcome of the November statewide election, Dittman said.
The poll shows that about 40 percent of Alaskans think the state is better off than before, about 32 percent think state government is about the same as it was before Murkowski took office and 23 percent say it has worsened.
The poll of 503 Alaskans was conducted between Jan. 10-16 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.
''Based on that, most people are hopefully optimistic,'' Dittman said. But the results don't constitute a ''honeymoon'' period with Alaska, in which the governor can do no wrong, and voters will soon want tangible results, Dittman said.
''They are optimistic and expecting some good things. (But) it could be a hammer out there waiting, because with these expectations there is the possibility of unmet expectations,'' Dittman said.
''And sometimes that can be dangerous,'' Dittman said.
Murkowski's administration has gotten off to a slow start with several key cabinet posts still not filled. During the campaign, Murkowski vowed that his cabinet would live in Juneau.
The governor has instituted reorganizations in the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and Military and Veterans Affairs and more are expected.
Murkowski's transition teams have recommended changes be made in several departments including the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which will be a lead agency in stimulating the state's resource economy.
Senate President Gene Therriault, R-North Pole, said he expects the governor to outline a plan to control state spending and reverse the decline in state revenues. And the governor could offer some surprises, he said.
''He might say there is a possibility of some kind of taxation in the future, after the people feel comfortable that we have done those other things,'' Therriault said.
Therriault said he and other legislative leaders met with the governor on Wednesday afternoon and the speech was not finished.
''We'll see what he really stresses tomorrow,'' he said.
Murkowski addresses a joint session of the Legislature on Thursday at 7 p.m.
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